Western States Workgroup expands booster shot eligibility to all adults

Photo of a COVID-19 vaccine being drawn into a syringe
Tom Wolf/Creative Commons
Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup comprising public health experts expanded COVID-19 booster shot eligibility to adults 18 years old and above. Photo by Governor Tom Wolf under CC BY 2.0.

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On Saturday, Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 booster shot to all adults 18 and older, easing complications of eligibility and increasing distribution of the vaccine.

“As with any vaccine, the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines slowly wanes over time,” said Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, in an email. “The vaccines remain highly effective, but with the threat of a winter surge, getting a booster shot is our best tool at reducing the spread this winter.”

According to Elgstrand, the population of Berkeley is 89% vaccinated, making the city among one of the highest rates in the nation. He noted that booster shots will reduce the emergence of new variants, which could potentially extend the pandemic.

According to campus public health professor emeritus John Swartzberg, the perseverance of breakthrough infections resulting in hospitalization or death made demand for the booster shot more apparent.

“Booster immunity will make it more difficult for the virus to infect somebody and, therefore, more difficult for that person to transmit the virus,” Swartzberg said.

According to Swartzberg, herd immunity was an incentive for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to open up the booster shot to a greater audience and decrease transmission by increasing immunization rates.

Swartzberg also noted that ambiguity surrounding the term “immunocompromised” created confusion for previous standards of eligibility. The lack of definitive qualifications created room for speculation among individuals with health conditions.

“One thing that is clear is public health messaging has to be simple,” Swartzberg said.

According to the Workgroup press release, adults over 50 “should” receive the booster, whereas adults aged 18 to 49 “may” receive the shot.

The Workgroup remains committed to monitoring the effects of the booster shot on public health.

No new symptoms have been reported from the booster shot, Swartzberg stated. Although, he noted that time is the only way to analyze the future of the vaccine.

The timeline for receiving boosters may vary depending on the type of initial vaccine received, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s press release. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require at least a six-month waiting period before receiving the booster, whereas Johnson & Johnson only requires two months after their first shot.

However, the type of booster shot administered is independent from the primary vaccination series received, according to the Workgroup press release.

The Workgroup press release also noted their concerns about access to mass vaccination, including international distribution of the vaccine.

“The Workgroup remains very concerned that the limited global supply of COVID-19 vaccines is hampering pandemic control efforts in low resource countries and increasing the risk of emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2 that could spread worldwide,” the Workgroup press release stated.

Contact Lily Button at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @lilybutton27.